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2 Mar 2015 at 1:27pm
NFL free agency starts on March 10, with teams hoping to find the next star who can push them to the next level. Here are Shutdown Corner's free-agency rankings for defensive players and specialists, with every relevant unrestricted free agent set to hit the market ( for offensive players, click here ) : DEFENSIVE ENDS 1. Jerry Hughes: Hughes never panned out for the Colts, but two 10-sack seasons in Buffalo have put him in great position as he heads into free agency before his age-27 season. 2. Greg Hardy: This one is complicated. He?s a tremendous talent and won?t turn 27 until July. He also had a domestic violence incident that landed him on the NFL?s exempt list. If not for that he?d get an enormous contract. He might still get it. 3. Jabaal Sheard: Sheard was a better fit as a 4-3 end, but the Browns switched to a 3-4. Sheard?s sack totals have slipped every year since his rookie season. Maybe he can find the right fit in free agency. 4. Adrian Clayborn: The former Buccaneers? first-round pick has been plagued by injuries ? he played in just one game last year ? but has been a solid 4-3 end when healthy.

2 Mar 2015 at 12:48pm
NFL free agency starts on March 10, with teams hoping to find the next star who can push them to the next level. Here are Shutdown Corner's free agency rankings for offensive players ( for defensive players and specialists, click here ) , with every relevant unrestricted free agent set to hit the market: QUARTERBACKS 1. Brian Hoyer: Like most years, there are no great free-agent options at quarterback. Hoyer has looked good in a few spurts. He also got benched for Johnny Manziel last season when the Browns were still in the playoff race. With Cleveland signing Josh McCown, it appears Hoyer will hit the open market. 2. Mark Sanchez: On the bright side, he had eight starts with the Philadelphia Eagles last season and posted an 88.4 rating, and he has good experience with 70 NFL starts. But he has also shown he is mistake-prone, and that?s unlikely to change. 3. Jake Locker: Injuries and inaccuracy ruined his Tennessee Titans career. But he was the No. 8 pick of the 2011 draft, and someone will talk themselves into him having a successful second act if he stays healthy (enormous ?if?) as he enters his age 27 season. 4. Ryan Mallett: Tom Brady?s backups get overrated; being a great player?s backup doesn?t make one great by osmosis. Mallett is a big-armed, unproven commodity with 79 career passes and an unimpressive 61 rating in four seasons. 5. Matt Moore: He had a good season starting for Miami in 2011. He has thrown 29 passes in three seasons since. His past success hasn?t been totally forgotten. 6. Tarvaris Jackson: He hasn?t played meaningful snaps since 2011, but has settled in nicely to his new career as a solid, dependable backup. 7. Michael Vick: Vick brings a big name and that?s about it at age 35. It has been a while since he was a legitimate option as a starter, but you could do worse as a backup option. 8. Colt McCoy: If you want to be optimistic, you chalk up his Cleveland struggles to it being the curse of the Browns, and focus on a decent four-start stint with the Washington Redskins last season. 9. Shaun Hill: At age 36, Hill is better suited as a backup, a role he was forced into with the St. Louis Rams last season. But he can still be an effective backup. 10. Christian Ponder: One would think that disastrous start at Green Bay eliminated all hope the former first-round pick could rebound in his second NFL stop. But he?ll get a shot somewhere. Others worth noting: Jason Campbell, Jimmy Clausen, Matt Flynn, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Lindley, Tyrod Taylor, Scott Tolzien and T.J. Yates RUNNING BACKS 1. DeMarco Murray: No other free agent got MVP votes after last season (Murray got two of 50) or won a major award like Murray?s NFL offensive player of the year award (unless you count Justin Houston?s Deacon Jones award for leading the NFL in sacks). So Murray should be a hot commodity, right? Maybe not. The market for running backs is depressed with teams looking for cheaper options in the draft. Murray?s free agency will be interesting to watch. 2. Ryan Mathews: A fantastic back with two 1,000-yard seasons in San Diego, Mathews also is a constant injury concern. His ceiling is high -- if he can stay healthy. 3. Justin Forsett: Behind offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak?s zone-blocking attack with the Baltimore Ravens, Forsett had 1,266 yards and a great 5.4-yard average. He never had more than 619 yards in any of his first six NFL seasons. He?ll turn 30 in October, so will teams be willing to gamble on a repeat? 4. C.J. Spiller: The Bills didn?t get anything near what they paid for with Spiller, after they made him the ninth overall pick. He rarely got regular touches, and also dealt with plenty of injuries. He is still an intriguing talent who might benefit from a change in scenery. 5. Mark Ingram: After he looked like a first-round bust, Ingram emerged in his fourth season as a tough, productive runner. He has durability concerns but he should be a solid option for a running back-needy team, and it might be hard for the Saints to bring him back given their salary cap problems. 6. Frank Gore: One of the great San Francisco 49ers, Gore has 11,073 career yards on 2,442 carries. He is the epitome of toughness at the position, and last year had a good 4.3-yard average at age 31. Will the 49ers re-sign him? It seems like he still has something left. 7. Shane Vereen: Vereen is probably more valuable to the Patriots, who know how to use his talents as a receiver out of the backfield, than anyone else. 8. Stevan Ridley: Ridley tore his ACL in October, which complicates matters. He?s a powerful back who also has a fumbling problem and is a non-factor in the passing game. But he?s good between the tackles. 9. Reggie Bush: Even though he?ll be 30 before next season, Bush still has a lot of value. He?s great out of the backfield as a receiver and can still break a big run. 10. Roy Helu: He never established himself as a top option in Washington? running game, but was great catching balls out of the backfield and doesn?t have many miles on his legs. 11. Ahmad Bradshaw: Bradshaw can still be an effective back when he?s healthy. That?s the problem: He?s rarely healthy. He hasn?t played 16 games since 2010 and he will be 29 next season. 12. Knowshon Moreno: The Broncos moved on from Moreno after a 1,000-yard season in 2013, and the Dolphins got just three games and 31 carries out of him because of injuries. He?s a solid all-around back and some team should get him at a discount. 13. Ben Tate: Tate was the top back in last year?s free-agent class, but that seems like decades ago. He was on three different teams last year, and if he signs somewhere this year he?ll have to prove he?s worth a regular role.

27 Feb 2015 at 4:28pm
The Redskins announced Friday that they have released defensive end Stephen Bowen and defensive lineman Barry Cofield, both of whom spent the last four years with Washington. Cofield, 30, was limited by injuries to eight games last season, finishing with seven tackles and a sack, after starting every game his first three years in Washington. Bowen appeared in 50 games, starting 45, for Washington and compiled 96 tackles and seven sacks. The moves came as the Redskins confirmed the signing of free agent defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois.

27 Feb 2015 at 3:35pm
It?s time to revive the need-vs.-BPA (best player available) debate, with an eye on this year?s draft. I was stunned at how many comments, Twitter remarks and emails I got after my post-combine mock draft that were something along the lines of ?[insert their favorite team] won?t do that ? they have bigger needs.? Knowing that my mock will be torn to shreds after the first round of free agency, I won?t defend the picks ?but rather my method. Think of it this way: If you were to go back and do a redraft from three, four, seven, heck, 10 years ago, what are you going to do? You?re going to look at the best players and not even think about need. It?s not the most scientific way to approach it, but the point is this: Talent trumps all, and need should only be a tiebreaker. [All Draft News, All The Time: Follow Shutdown Draft 365 on Tumblr ] So let?s take a look at the first-round draft order and examine some teams? big, pressing needs ?and implore them to wait on filling them if the right player isn?t available. 1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: What don?t they need? Well, certainly most of the free world believes that Jameis Winston will be their choice at No. 1 overall, so we?ll assume that the Bucs go that direction and know that they can come back and address their needs for a pass rusher or an offensive lineman (or two) later on, starting with the second pick of the second round. 2. Tennessee Titans: Do they draft Marcus Mariota? I had the Titans taking him second, but I am starting to get the idea that they?ll listen to offers from desperate teams such as the Cleveland Browns or Philadelphia Eagles, if for no other reason than to see what they might fork over. That makes this tough to project, but we can say this: There is no offensive lineman ? and they still need some ?or defensive back worth taking at No. 2. 3. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags are in a great spot here, able to let the top two picks play out and still likely get either Leonard Williams or a pass rusher. The need they can wait on is an offensive tackle, which could come later on. 4. Oakland Raiders: It?s looking like it is coming down to a receiver or a pass rusher, depending on what happens in free agency; Williams wouldn?t be bad, either. But as badly as they need another cornerback or an offensive lineman, this too can wait. 5. Washington Redskins: A bulldog guard with some size and grit would really help spur this run game. But you?re not drafting guards with the fifth pick too often and hitting home runs. This year is no exception. They can get their guy in Round 2 and still find a starter. 6. New York Jets: Broken record here. Cornerback and offensive tackle are two spots they?d love to fill in the draft. But taking D?Brickashaw Ferguson?s eventual replacement shouldn?t come with the sixth pick, no matter what happens in the top five. 7. Chicago Bears: For all of their defensive needs (and they have plenty), the Bears also have a sneaky shortcoming at wide receiver ? especially if Brandon Marshall doesn?t figure into their plans. But with this draft class, some good receivers will be pushed down, maybe even into Rounds 3 and 4. 8. Atlanta Falcons: With the way the Falcons are cutting veterans left and right, their needs grow ? proportionally to the speculation that they might be players in free agency. So it?s tricky to say which needs will be filled in late April and which won?t. But based on our best speculation, it would be unlikely for the Falcons to go the veteran free-agent route to add a running back, which they need, and more likely they?ll mine one from the draft. And we know it won?t be at No. 8. Could they steal Melvin Gordon at No. 41 overall? Get lucky to land Jay Ajayi near the top of Round 3? They might. 9. New York Giants: Is this too high to take an offensive tackle? We would understand the thinking if they went that route. A pass rusher? That we certainly can get on board with, assuming there?s still one worth taking (Vic Beasley? Bud Dupree?) still on the board. But we would implore the Giants to resist their defensive back need here, even if you?re talking Landon Collins or Trae Waynes or whomever. It just feels a bit too high for that position. 10. St. Louis Rams: Tricky spot to forecast here. They might need a receiver, and what if, say, either Kevin White or Amari Cooper slip? They might have to pounce. Offensive line looms as a sore spot still, and it wouldn?t be offensive to start (or continue) the run at that position for the right player. But a tight end? A cornerback? A quarterback? We say pass here. 11. Minnesota Vikings: This all changes if Adrian Peterson isn?t back, but we?re still not on board ?yet ?with Todd Gurley going at this point, even though, boy, what a potential replacement he might be. The beautiful thing seems to be that most of the team?s main needs (offensive line, cornerback, receiver) have players who could fit into this range. But linebacker, especially the kind they need, shouldn?t be the choice here. They can find one or two later on. 12. Cleveland Browns: Predicting Browns behavior is risky business, and we don?t recommend it for the faint of heart. But one thing is for certain: Taking a quarterback ? assuming Marcus Mariota doesn?t embark on an Aaron Rodgers-esque slide ?doesn?t feel wise. We?ll stop there for now, with the Browns back on the clock seven picks down the chain. 13. New Orleans Saints: You might be surprised to read how much we think the Saints need to consider a quarterback, and perhaps relatively high, too. But not here. No way. They can land a good pass rusher or cornerback at this spot and wait on QB. Maybe Garrett Grayson in the third? 14. Miami Dolphins: Our thinking here is that they could address the receiver position if someone like DeVante Parker remains undrafted, or perhaps nabbing a cornerback, although we?re bearish on the top-end talent. Same with linebacker. And they drafted an offensive lineman in Round 1 a year ago ?would they go back and take another one this high? 15. San Francisco 49ers: I believe they?ll draft a quarterback. Boy, they?d rock the boat with a Brett Hundley pick, wouldn?t they? It?s not likely, but it?s fun to ponder. They also need receivers, offensive and defensive linemen, cornerbacks and a tight end. That last position can be filled down the line. 16. Houston Texans: Yes, we?d love to see long-term clarity at the QB spot, but Hundley and Bryce Petty are no-nos here. Solve the cornerback/wide receiver/offensive line issue instead. A sleeper first-round position could be nose tackle, unless they suddenly feel better about Louis Nix III. 17. San Diego Chargers: If a pass rusher fell here, they could grab him and help fill the veteran voids of Dwight Freeney and/or Jarrett Johnson, even with Jeremiah Attaochu in the wings. An offensive or defensive lineman could work here, too. But a running back ? even if Ryan Mathews leaves ?can wait. This draft is loaded at the position. http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/post-nfl-combine-two-round-mock-draft-155706803.html 18. Kansas City Chiefs: No, we?re not going to further alienate our Chiefs readers by suggesting they pass on a wide receiver here (as we did in our most recent mock draft). An offensive lineman makes perfect sense as well. A corner would be OK if the right-sized and skilled player is here. But a linebacker can wait for later on in the draft. 19. Browns (from the Buffalo Bills): It all depends on what happens at 12. Heck, they could trade these two picks for Mariota for all we know. The only positions we?d urge them to wait on would be a linebacker or a tight end (if Jordan Cameron is gone). 20. Philadelphia Eagles: Like the Browns, we?re not super keen on them going quarterback here, short of finding a way to get up for Mariota. Corner and offensive line, if they stay here, would be two areas to consider. But safety would be a reach, even with Landon Collins fitting the Brian Dawkins-like physical mold. This Eagles defense relies on range, which might not be Collins? forte. 21. Cincinnati Bengals: No kickers here, please! We?re only half kidding. Same with quarterback, even though we?d love to provide some Andy Dalton alternatives for the future. We feel confident they can find a linebacker, pass rusher, defensive back or receiver here whose value makes more sense. 22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Will there be a pass rusher worth taking at 22? Too early to tell. We think there will be a corner or a defensive lineman they like in this spot if not. Certainly, there?s zero need to add a running back now, even with Le?Veon Bell?s looming two-game suspension and zero reliable depth behind him. That can wait ? perhaps even until Day 3 of the draft. 23. Detroit Lions: Releasing Reggie Bush means they could use another running back. But please, for all that is right, don?t start projecting them to take Gurley or Gordon. It?s not happening here. We?d love them to help out the offensive line, or the defensive line if they can?t keep Ndamukong Suh and/or Nick Fairley. 24. Arizona Cardinals: Funny to say for an offensively limited team by season?s end, but there might actually be more tangible needs on the defensive side of the ball ?perhaps with all three levels needing some help. The inside linebacker can wait. We actually would be on board with taking Gurley here, too; that might be a fantastic move. 25. Carolina Panthers: Doesn?t this have to be an offensive tackle here? If not, maybe a receiver, but they did take Kelvin Benjamin in Round 1 last year, making it less likely in our minds. A cornerback would be better addressed later, we think, but the top ones will go quickly in this range. 26. Baltimore Ravens: This is a team that stands to lose some players for monetary reasons, and of their clear needs right now, we think they might be forced to wait on an outside rusher until later in the draft. It?s unlikely the right fit will be here at this spot, and there are plenty of other spots they can address nicely with the talent expected to be available here. 27. Dallas Cowboys: They could use another tight end to replace Jason Witten one day, and as much as Maxx Williams reminds us of Witten, we say pass here. There are a surprising number of areas that could improve on this 12-4 squad. 28. Denver Broncos: Like we?ve said above, the linebacker crop is not chock full of top-end talent, so this is a position they might be able to hit the snooze bar on for a round unless a top talent such as Shaq Thompson slides unexpectedly. 29. Indianapolis Colts: They need a safety, but if Collins is gone ? we say wait. There might only be another one or two worth taking in the first 75 picks of the draft or so. We also think drafting a running back this high might not be the wisest move. Get another offensive lineman or a pass rusher instead. 30. Green Bay Packers: Why is everyone panicking about inside linebacker? Yes, Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk are gone, but that?s not a first-round position in this defense, we don?t believe. Ted Thompson is among the strictest best-player-available drafters in the game. We think he?ll look elsewhere. 31. Seattle Seahawks: Wide receiver is tempting, but the depth of this class suggests they might be able to be patient and wait; besides, they traded down and made Paul Richardson their top pick a year ago, even if he is coming off a torn ACL. 32. New England Patriots: Why does everyone want them to draft a receiver so high? They never have used a first-rounder on one under Bill Belichick, and they likely won?t start now. The offensive and defensive lines make more sense to address. The receiver can wait. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

27 Feb 2015 at 3:25pm
It might come as a surprise, but the Arizona Cardinals released defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. Cardinals announced they released Darnell Dockett. ? Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 27, 2015 Dockett tore his ACL prior to last season and missed the entire 2014 campaign. The colorful and outspoken defensive lineman turns 34 in May and was scheduled to hit for nearly $9 million on this year's salary cap. Dockett signed a four-year, $35.3 million deal prior to the 2010 season and has spent his entire career with the Cardinals until now. Although injury and age work against him, Dockett still should garner solid attention on the free-agent market. This feels like a salary cap-related move by the Cardinals, who previously were projected to have about $5 million in space to operate. 'Tis the season for NFL teams to hack veterans, and Friday brought a slew of financially motivated cuts. The Miami Dolphins cut receivers Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson. The Atlanta Falcons cut receiver Harry Douglas and offensive lineman Justin Blalock one day after chopping Steven Jackson. The Washington Redskins cut defensive linemen Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen. The Cincinnati Bengals parted ways with wideout Greg Little and defensive lineman Robert Geathers. It's all part of the fat-trimming teams are doing with the start of the new league year and free agency nearly upon us (March 10, officially). Dockett is the biggest name of the bunch, and he should find work elsewhere. As for some of the others, it's not clear that will happen, at least not immediately. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

27 Feb 2015 at 12:27am
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois agreed to a $9 million, three-year contract with the Washington Redskins that includes $4 million in guaranteed money, according to his agent.

25 Feb 2015 at 6:45pm
The Bears have outstanding offensive skill-position personnel which will make Mariota's transition easier.

24 Feb 2015 at 2:16pm
The Atlanta Falcons have re-signed fullback Patrick DiMarco and defensive end Cliff Matthews to contract extensions. Matthews could have signed with another team as an unrestricted free agent. DiMarco has played in 30 games with 14 starts with Atlanta. Matthews, a sixth-round pick in 2011, had six tackles in seven games last season.

24 Feb 2015 at 1:08pm
A federal government decision to cancel the Washington Redskins' trademark because it may be disparaging infringes on free-speech rights and unfairly singles the team out, lawyers argued in court papers filed Monday. The team wants to overturn a decision last year by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to cancel the Redskins' trademark on the grounds that it may be offensive to Native Americans. The trademark board's decision unfairly singles out the Redskins ''for disfavored treatment based solely on the content of its protected speech, interfering with the ongoing public discourse over the Redskins' name by choosing sides and cutting off the debate.

24 Feb 2015 at 9:57am
Connecting the dots on a mock draft three weeks before the start of free agency proves to be difficult, especially with more health and workout information needed on a few key injured draft prospects. But we?ll take a crack with the NFL scouting combine in the rearview mirror and the bulk of the draft information in the tank. Here?s how we think the first two rounds looks as things stand now. 1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers ? Florida State QB Jameis Winston Head coach Lovie Smith says he?s OK with Winston?s character, which would be the only real roadblock to welcoming him in the building. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter won?t have to dig deep in his playbook to find a system that fits Winston?s skills, having coached similar physical types in Byron Leftwich and Matt Ryan in Jacksonville and Atlanta, respectively. The stars are starting to line up for this marriage. [All Draft News, All The Time: Follow Shutdown Draft 365 on Tumblr ] 2. Tennessee Titans ?Oregon QB Marcus Mariota Our best comp for Mariota since last fall has been Alex Smith, who has been a good but hardly transcendent quarterback. Mariota?s strong workouts this weekend only reinforce that. Titans OC Jason Michael spent two years as Smith?s QB coach in San Francisco and certainly can draw on that experience to find a way to get the best from Mariota. Are we certain Mariota will go second? No, but the Titans? lukewarm defense of Zach Mettenberger in Indy makes us think this could happen. Otherwise, the Titans might be open for business at No. 2 if the right team blows them away with a trade offer. 3. Jacksonville Jaguars ?USC DT Leonard Williams The Daytona Beach native might be the perfect force player for Gus Bradley?s defense, even if an interior player isn?t the most pressing need. Who cares? Williams might be the cleanest prospect available and could give the Jaguars another horse up front to control the action.

21 Feb 2015 at 4:07am
Nick Mensio keeps track of all the reserve/future contracts signed around the NFL.

18 Feb 2015 at 6:36pm
Thought the dysfunction among former Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, quarterback Robert Griffin III and team owner Dan Snyder was a topic of the past? Shanahan was interviewed on D.C. radio station ESPN980's ''The Sports Fix'' show for more than an hour Wednesday, dishing mostly about Griffin and Snyder - and what the coach called both men's desire for RG3 to become a dropback passer - but also about Donovan McNabb, Albert Haynesworth and other topics. In Shanahan's telling, a disagreement over the direction the team's offense would take - and whether Griffin was ready to be a classic pocket QB - led to the breakdown of their working relationship. Griffin was the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, but he tore up his knee in a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

18 Feb 2015 at 5:15pm
Washington Redskins safety Ryan Clark says he's retiring from the NFL after a 13-year career as a player. As expected, the 35-year-old old Clark is going to work as an NFL analyst for ESPN. He started his pro career with the New York Giants, won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers and had two stints with the Redskins, including last season.

18 Feb 2015 at 2:06pm
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- After getting benched each of the past two seasons, Robert Griffin III is back to being the Washington Redskins' starting quarterback.

18 Feb 2015 at 12:14pm
INDIANAPOLIS ? Jay Gruden left no doubt that Robert Griffin III is the Washington Redskins? starting quarterback heading into the 2015 season. There were a lot of questions about Griffin's future with the team last season, when Gruden went through three quarterbacks ? Griffin, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy. But at the NFL scouting combine on Wednesday he anointed Griffin the starter. ?Robert ended the season as the starter,? Gruden said. ?We anticipate that going forward.? Asked to clarify, he reiterated that Griffin is Washington's starter until further notice. "We will go into the season with Robert as the No. 1 guy," Gruden said. "It's up to Robert to continue to grow and mature as a quarterback and as a person. Then moving forward, just want to see some improvement. It?s up to us as a staff to get more out of him." The Redskins didn't have many options. McCoy is a free agent, and Gruden wouldn?t talk about whether the team wants to re-sign him. Cousins was not very good in his audition last season, and got benched. That leaves Griffin to get another chance. Griffin won the 2012 NFL offensive rookie of the year award, but it has been tough since then. He tore his ACL in the playoffs at the end of his rookie season, rushed back for the 2013 regular-season opener and never looked right. He didn?t take a big leap forward in 2014 either, and missed a lot of time with a dislocated ankle, but he had a few promising starts at the end of the season. It seemed for a while like the Redskins might explore a trade in the offseason, but Gruden said Griffin is in Washington?s plans as a starter moving forward. Griffin will have to get better, but Gruden took on some responsibility for getting that done. "Obviously there?s a lot of improvement to do across the board, coaching included," Gruden said. - - - - - - - Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

2 Mar 2015 at 3:05pm
Two top National Football League receivers, Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys and Demaryius Thomas of Denver, were among those given a "franchise player" tag on Monday by their clubs. On the deadline day for teams to decide which players will be given the label, Dallas made the move to keep Bryant off the free agency market.

2 Mar 2015 at 2:26pm
Dez Bryant will get four more months to work on a long-term deal with the Cowboys and make $12.8 million next year after the team used its franchise tag on the star wide receiver. Bryant led the NFL with a club-record 16 touchdowns in the final year of a rookie contract that paid $11.8 million over five years. The 26-year-old Bryant was the fastest Dallas player to 300 career receptions and second-fastest to 50 touchdowns behind Bob Hayes. The Cowboys also have to decide whether to re-sign running back DeMarco Murray after he had a league-leading 1,845 yards rushing in the final year of his contract.

2 Mar 2015 at 1:27pm
NFL free agency starts on March 10, with teams hoping to find the next star who can push them to the next level. Here are Shutdown Corner's free-agency rankings for defensive players and specialists, with every relevant unrestricted free agent set to hit the market ( for offensive players, click here ) : DEFENSIVE ENDS 1. Jerry Hughes: Hughes never panned out for the Colts, but two 10-sack seasons in Buffalo have put him in great position as he heads into free agency before his age-27 season. 2. Greg Hardy: This one is complicated. He?s a tremendous talent and won?t turn 27 until July. He also had a domestic violence incident that landed him on the NFL?s exempt list. If not for that he?d get an enormous contract. He might still get it. 3. Jabaal Sheard: Sheard was a better fit as a 4-3 end, but the Browns switched to a 3-4. Sheard?s sack totals have slipped every year since his rookie season. Maybe he can find the right fit in free agency. 4. Adrian Clayborn: The former Buccaneers? first-round pick has been plagued by injuries ? he played in just one game last year ? but has been a solid 4-3 end when healthy.

2 Mar 2015 at 12:48pm
NFL free agency starts on March 10, with teams hoping to find the next star who can push them to the next level. Here are Shutdown Corner's free agency rankings for offensive players ( for defensive players and specialists, click here ) , with every relevant unrestricted free agent set to hit the market: QUARTERBACKS 1. Brian Hoyer: Like most years, there are no great free-agent options at quarterback. Hoyer has looked good in a few spurts. He also got benched for Johnny Manziel last season when the Browns were still in the playoff race. With Cleveland signing Josh McCown, it appears Hoyer will hit the open market. 2. Mark Sanchez: On the bright side, he had eight starts with the Philadelphia Eagles last season and posted an 88.4 rating, and he has good experience with 70 NFL starts. But he has also shown he is mistake-prone, and that?s unlikely to change. 3. Jake Locker: Injuries and inaccuracy ruined his Tennessee Titans career. But he was the No. 8 pick of the 2011 draft, and someone will talk themselves into him having a successful second act if he stays healthy (enormous ?if?) as he enters his age 27 season. 4. Ryan Mallett: Tom Brady?s backups get overrated; being a great player?s backup doesn?t make one great by osmosis. Mallett is a big-armed, unproven commodity with 79 career passes and an unimpressive 61 rating in four seasons. 5. Matt Moore: He had a good season starting for Miami in 2011. He has thrown 29 passes in three seasons since. His past success hasn?t been totally forgotten. 6. Tarvaris Jackson: He hasn?t played meaningful snaps since 2011, but has settled in nicely to his new career as a solid, dependable backup. 7. Michael Vick: Vick brings a big name and that?s about it at age 35. It has been a while since he was a legitimate option as a starter, but you could do worse as a backup option. 8. Colt McCoy: If you want to be optimistic, you chalk up his Cleveland struggles to it being the curse of the Browns, and focus on a decent four-start stint with the Washington Redskins last season. 9. Shaun Hill: At age 36, Hill is better suited as a backup, a role he was forced into with the St. Louis Rams last season. But he can still be an effective backup. 10. Christian Ponder: One would think that disastrous start at Green Bay eliminated all hope the former first-round pick could rebound in his second NFL stop. But he?ll get a shot somewhere. Others worth noting: Jason Campbell, Jimmy Clausen, Matt Flynn, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Lindley, Tyrod Taylor, Scott Tolzien and T.J. Yates RUNNING BACKS 1. DeMarco Murray: No other free agent got MVP votes after last season (Murray got two of 50) or won a major award like Murray?s NFL offensive player of the year award (unless you count Justin Houston?s Deacon Jones award for leading the NFL in sacks). So Murray should be a hot commodity, right? Maybe not. The market for running backs is depressed with teams looking for cheaper options in the draft. Murray?s free agency will be interesting to watch. 2. Ryan Mathews: A fantastic back with two 1,000-yard seasons in San Diego, Mathews also is a constant injury concern. His ceiling is high -- if he can stay healthy. 3. Justin Forsett: Behind offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak?s zone-blocking attack with the Baltimore Ravens, Forsett had 1,266 yards and a great 5.4-yard average. He never had more than 619 yards in any of his first six NFL seasons. He?ll turn 30 in October, so will teams be willing to gamble on a repeat? 4. C.J. Spiller: The Bills didn?t get anything near what they paid for with Spiller, after they made him the ninth overall pick. He rarely got regular touches, and also dealt with plenty of injuries. He is still an intriguing talent who might benefit from a change in scenery. 5. Mark Ingram: After he looked like a first-round bust, Ingram emerged in his fourth season as a tough, productive runner. He has durability concerns but he should be a solid option for a running back-needy team, and it might be hard for the Saints to bring him back given their salary cap problems. 6. Frank Gore: One of the great San Francisco 49ers, Gore has 11,073 career yards on 2,442 carries. He is the epitome of toughness at the position, and last year had a good 4.3-yard average at age 31. Will the 49ers re-sign him? It seems like he still has something left. 7. Shane Vereen: Vereen is probably more valuable to the Patriots, who know how to use his talents as a receiver out of the backfield, than anyone else. 8. Stevan Ridley: Ridley tore his ACL in October, which complicates matters. He?s a powerful back who also has a fumbling problem and is a non-factor in the passing game. But he?s good between the tackles. 9. Reggie Bush: Even though he?ll be 30 before next season, Bush still has a lot of value. He?s great out of the backfield as a receiver and can still break a big run. 10. Roy Helu: He never established himself as a top option in Washington? running game, but was great catching balls out of the backfield and doesn?t have many miles on his legs. 11. Ahmad Bradshaw: Bradshaw can still be an effective back when he?s healthy. That?s the problem: He?s rarely healthy. He hasn?t played 16 games since 2010 and he will be 29 next season. 12. Knowshon Moreno: The Broncos moved on from Moreno after a 1,000-yard season in 2013, and the Dolphins got just three games and 31 carries out of him because of injuries. He?s a solid all-around back and some team should get him at a discount. 13. Ben Tate: Tate was the top back in last year?s free-agent class, but that seems like decades ago. He was on three different teams last year, and if he signs somewhere this year he?ll have to prove he?s worth a regular role.

2 Mar 2015 at 8:56am
The Kansas City Chiefs weren't letting a 26-year-old coming off a 22-sack season reach free agency. So Justin Houston will get the franchise tag. The Broncos felt the same way about receiver Demaryius Thomas. He'll get the franchise tag too, the Denver Post's Mike Klis reported . ESPN's Adam Schefter was first with the Houston news. Yahoo Sports' Rand Getlin said that the New York Giants decided to tag defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Tim Twentyman of the Detroit Lions' official site reported the team will not use the franchise tag on Ndamukong Suh, which isn't unexpected since Suh would have cost almost $27 million to tag. The New England Patriots made an interesting decision with their franchise tag. Instead of using it on safety Devin McCourty, as many figured they would, they instead used it on kicker Stephen Gostkowski. That's a defensible decision too, because Gostkowski is arguably the best kicker in the NFL. He hit 94.6 percent of his field-goal attempts last season. It has been previously reported that the Dallas Cowboys expect to tag receiver Dez Bryant. In addition, the Miami Dolphins used the transition tag for tight end Charles Clay, for a little more than $7 million. The deadline to use franchise or transition tags is 4 p.m. Eastern time on Monday. In Thomas' case, and likely in Houston's case and the others who will be tagged as well, they're expected to get the non-exclusive tag. That means teams can sign them away at the price of two first-round picks. That sounds like a massive price, and it is, but maybe it shouldn't be viewed that way (aside from the fact that the NFL clearly has an unspoken understanding that messing with someone else's restricted free agents or franchise players will be looked down upon). Would a team consistently picking near the bottom of the draft who had cap room really be that unwise to give up two first-round picks for someone like Houston? If Houston was in this draft somehow, he'd be a top-five pick without question. He has made three Pro Bowls in four NFL seasons. All-Pro pass rushers who have plenty of prime years left don't become available often. That's probably why the Chiefs would match any offer anyway, which is their right with Houston as a franchise-tagged player. The same could said for a team like the Seattle Seahawks and the franchised receivers. Assuming the Seahawks could fit a Bryant or Thomas under the cap, wouldn't one of those elite receivers do more for them than any two late first-round picks would? The point of the franchise tag is that it virtually guarantees you'll keep that player. It'll be interesting to see if an NFL team ever tries to pry one away. - - - - - - - Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

2 Mar 2015 at 8:52am
In the end, the Detroit Lions couldn't justify placing the franchise tag on defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The #Lions will not place the franchise tag on DT Ndamukong Suh. ? Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) March 2, 2015 It would have cost the team a one-year tender of $27 million, which ? along with the bloated salaries of Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford ? would have crippled the Lions' salary cap situation and perhaps hindered their chances to re-sign Suh and even Nick Fairley, another key free agent. The reason his figure was high was because Suh's cap number was $22 million a year ago in his redone deal, and the franchise rules require a 20 percent kicker over that number. The Lions are playing with fire, but they still harbor hopes they can re-sign Suh to a long-term deal. They'll have until March 10, which is the opening of free agency, to lock up Suh or risk losing him to the open market, where the money could exceed what the Lions can afford. A year ago, the Lions opted not to pick up the fifth-year option for Fairley, a first-round pick in 2010. He had been out of shape and had not produced to the level the Lions had hoped. But even with a season-ending injury last season, Fairley played well enough ? and with the Suh uncertainty looming ? that it appears in hindsight the Lions might have made a mistake. Now what for Suh? The Lions could come to an agreement with him in the next week. But other teams will be lurking with one of the top interior defenders now hitting the market. Previously, Suh's camp had let word leak that he might be seeking a landing spot in one of the top markets. With the New York Giants expected to franchise Jason-Pierre Paul and the New York Jets loaded with d-line talent, the NYC market might be limited as a destination. Philadelphia? Dallas? It's not clear if Suh is financially viable in either spot, although the Cowboys always figure to have one eye on the situation. As for teams with the requisite cap space, the Oakland Raiders figure to be players. Maybe the Atlanta Falcons, too, as they have cleared gobs of cap room and desperately need a pass rush. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

1 Mar 2015 at 10:44am
We are getting closer to figuring out the Dallas Cowboys' offseason strategy plans. Monday is the deadline for the Cowboys ? and every other NFL team, for that matter ? to receive the franchise tag. All indications point toward Dez Bryant being the recipient of it, with the team telling his agents that it planned to do so ( per ESPN.com's Todd Archer )short of some kind of Hail Mary contract extension before then. So what then of Murray? Well, it appears that the Cowboys are willing, for now, to let Murray find out what his market value might be in free agency.Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones told Fox Sports Southwest as much. "[Murray] is probably going to, you know, get some peace and see what's out in the market and then we'll talk and see," Jones said. "I do believe deep down he'd love to stay in Dallas." And that's the thing: This doesn't close the door on Murray's return to Dallas anymore than it guaranteed Bryant will be back. Even if the Cowboys franchise Bryant, it's not a 100 percent certainty he'll return ? until he signs the would-be one-year tender offer of $13 million, which pretty much locks him down. Bryant might not be too keen about that, and Murray honestly might not be blown away by the offers on the free-agent market in what could be a depressed field for a running back who just went off for more than 1,800 yards on the ground, sad as that might sound to him. There's also still a chance both men end up back with the Cowboys. Jones said they've played this game before. "We've had some really good football players go into free agency: Jay Novacek and Darren Woodson and, you know, they still sign with the Cowboys," he said. "So, just because you're a free agent doesn't mean you're not necessarily going to end up back in Dallas." The rubber hits the pavement March 7, which is when the Cowboys and other teams can start actively (and legally) negotiating with free agents. Three days later, on March 10, the free-agency period begins. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm



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24 Feb 2015 at 8:42pm
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24 Feb 2015 at 8:22pm
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